Category Archives: Health & Safety

Crib and Mattress Safety: What to Look for at Child Care Facilities

We hope you enjoy this guest post from the experts at the Sleep Help Institute. If you have additional questions about safe sleeping practices, please contact our Infant/Toddler specialists.

Child safety is always at the forefront of both the minds of parents and child care providers. When it comes to sleep safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed requirements to protect children when they’re at their most vulnerable. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics also updated their crib and mattress recommendations. These guidelines still hold today and all child care facilities, and caregivers should abide by them.

WHAT MAKES A CRIB SAFE?

The construction, hardware, placement, and accessories of a crib all contribute to child safety. Standards to watch for include:

  • Bar Space: Sidebars should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. That’s about the width of a pop can. A wider space gives enough room for a child’s head to slide through the bars and potentially get injured.
  • Top Rail Height: The distance between the top of the crib rail and the mattress must be at least 26 inches. This should be the distance even when the crib mattress is at the highest position. As children get taller,  caregivers should lower the mattress so the child cannot climb or fall out of the crib.
  • Solid Head and Footboards: Solid headboard and footboards prevent a child’s body and clothing from getting caught in cutouts. Crib models that have bars at the head and foot of the crib should still maintain the 2 3/8-inch distance necessary on sidebars.
  • Remove Corner Posts: Corner posts present a strangulation hazard because clothing can get caught on them.
  • The Mattress: A safe crib mattress should be firm and should not sag under the weight of a child. The mattress should also fit snugly against the crib walls with no space between the two.

Even a crib that meets all the standards can become dangerous if not properly maintained. Child care providers should regularly check cribs for broken and missing pieces. Parents deciding on a facility should ask how often child care providers inspect the cribs.

Once in a while, an old crib that doesn’t meet the new standards may still be in use, including drop-side cribs. Today, drop-side cribs cannot be manufactured, sold, or even donated because of the danger they pose. These cribs were designed to give caregivers easy access to the baby with a side (or two) that could be lowered. However, a lowered side created a gap between the mattress and crib rail where children could get caught. The moving hardware necessary for these cribs also tended to break and warped, which led to preventable injuries.

MORE THAN A CRIB MAKES SLEEPING SAFE

Child safety requires more than the right hardware. The location and contents of the crib can also make a difference. For example:

  • Caregivers should not place cribs near windows. Drafts can make the baby uncomfortable while cords and strings pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Bumpers aren’t necessary. Bumpers were designed to prevent children from hurting themselves by running into the side of the crib. However, they pose more danger than they prevent as they can be a potential suffocation and strangulation hazard.
  • Stuffed animals and extra blankets may look cute but they aren’t necessary and can be a suffocation hazard. They also make a good step stool for older children, putting them at risk of falling out of the crib.

COMMITMENT TO SAFETY

Parents can and should discuss their safety concerns with any potential child care provider. A child care provider that’s up-to-date on the latest standards will be more than happy address any and all safety concerns.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons license.

Autism Awareness: Putting Children First

by Sarah Bailey, Inclusion Specialist

The scarf lies on top of my dresser all year long. Every so often, I pick it up, look at it, and lay it back down. The bright, primary colors dance around the well-known puzzle pieces.

The scarf reminds me of Margaret, the first child with autism that I worked with. I learned so much from that sweet girl and her therapist. They say that children teach us more than we ever teach them, and with Margaret, that was the truth. She taught me patience. She taught me how to follow-through. She taught me why inclusion is important and how it benefits everyone. My other students would fight over who got to work in a small group with Margaret each day. They learned empathy and compassion. She learned how to make friends. She learned how to ask to play. They helped her work on peer interaction, while they learned it themselves.

I wear the scarf every year as a reminder to me about the 1 in 68 children in the United States that have autism.  According to the TACA website, “More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined.”

WHAT DO THE PUZZLE PIECES REPRESENT?

The background of the puzzle piece goes back to 1963. A parent and board member of the National Autistic Society, Gerald Gasson, created the puzzle believing that people with autism suffered from a ‘puzzling’ condition. Each puzzle piece we see may be different in some way, just like each person with autism is different. It represents the diversity of each person with autism. While not everyone agrees, people have come to view the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism and autism awareness.

PERSON-FIRST LANGUAGE

The language we use to describe people with special needs has really changed over the years. Back in the 1960s, when the puzzle piece was first introduced, people referred to those developmental disabilities as mentally handicapped. Society thought of children with autism as psychotic.  Doctors blamed autism on “refrigerator” parents, who seemed to lack parental warmth.

We now are beginning to understand the power of words. Person-First Language is about respect. We want to look first at the person, not his or her disability. We do not say “He is cancerous.” We say, “He HAS cancer.” It is about seeing the person before we see what condition he might have. Instead of saying, “Joe is autistic,” you can say, “Joe has autism.” It is something he has, not something he is. A person is not handicapped or disabled. She HAS a disability.

AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH: AUTISM FACTS

We commemorate Autism Awareness Month in April each year. 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. Boys are diagnosed four times as often as girls.

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder. Autism is a developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in communication, social interactions, and play skills. There is no cure for autism, but, through early intervention and treatment, one can improve or overcome the symptoms related to autism.

AUTISM RESOURCES

The Autism Puzzle Piece: A Symbol That’s Going To Stay Or Go?
Autism Society: National Autism Awareness Month
National Autism Association: Autism Facts
Talk About Curing Autism: Latest Autism Statistics

What to do when the flu hits your program

by Shannon Ford, Professional Development Coordinator

You’ve done everything right to prepare for flu season this year in your child care program. Your staff all got their flu shots. All of your children’s vaccination records are up-to-date. You’ve been sanitizing like crazy. Yet – bam! – the flu is here! What do you do next?

BE AWARE OF THE SYMPTOMS

Flu is a tough bug to figure out sometimes. Many symptoms – like coughing, stuffy nose, and sore throat – can mimic the common cold. Other symptoms – like a fever – sometimes, but not always, present themselves.

Emergency warning signs also appear differently in children than they do in adults. If you notice any of the following, get medical help right away1:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
  • Infants who are unable to eat, have no tears when crying, or have significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

And, remember – you should be aware of symptoms in adults that come in contact with the children as well. Family members, staff, and other visitors are also likely to spread the virus.

WHEN SHOULD I SEND A CHILD HOME?

We’re all used to sniffles and sneezes and snotty noses. However, if a child has the symptoms of flu (ex. fever) AND these respiratory symptoms during flu season, you should exclude him or her from care2. Because the flu is so easily transmitted through little coughs and sneezes, this is one of the most common ways it spreads.

Sometimes, a little guy or girl is just too puny to do what everyone else in the class is doing. If he or she requires so much additional care from staff that the teacher isn’t able to attend to others, it’s time to consider a call home to Mom or Dad.

HOW SHOULD I MAKE FAMILIES AWARE WHEN SOMEONE IN MY PROGRAM HAS THE FLU?

Your first step is always to make the child’s parent or guardian aware when you suspect that he or she has the flu.

If a doctor or nurse practitioner diagnoses two or more children or staff members with the influenza virus,  Licensing3 requires directors to immediately notify all family members and staff that they have been exposed. To do this, you can post on the door or another conspicuous place something like, “Cases of Influenza have been diagnosed in someone who has been in this building.”  Or, you may give a personal note to each parent or staff member.

Have information pamphlets available on hand should family members or staff have additional questions. See the American Academy of Pediatrics website for suggestions.

WHAT ARE MY OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN CHILDREN OR STAFF ARE DIAGNOSED WITH THE FLU?

Directors’ jobs aren’t done when families and staff are notified. They also need to ensure that they are meeting all the licensing requirements3 to report the incidents of flu as necessary. Keep in mind that you must complete AT LEAST one of the following tasks. Depending on the situation, it may be beneficial for you to reach out to more than one resource for guidance.

  • Consult your local health department.
  • Call your licensing consultant.

 

It essentially all boils down to this sobering fact; the health and safety of little people are in your hands. Be aware, follow through, and do what’s in the best interest of the children in your care.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Preventing Childhood Obesity

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

As a parent in today’s hurry-up society, I recognize how easy it can be to succumb to unhealthy habits that are responsible for creating an overweight child.  For the sake of convenience and budget, we all have all been guilty of these habits. My vice? Swinging by the closest fast food joint when the evening hours fade away after extracurricular events or running errands. At some point in time, most of us have relied on a computer screen to keep a child occupied. It sure makes things easier to handle issues, cook dinner, or just sit down and take a deep breath.

If we take time to look at the potential long term effects, it can help families become empowered to make small changes that will make big impacts.

OBESITY IS TRENDING UPWARD

Statistics says that nearly 1 in 3, or over 30% of Hoosiers are overweight or obese*. Unfortunately, this trend is getting worse, and the numbers are increasing each year.  What can you do to make sure that your family is not among these statistics?

IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ON TRACK

Childhood presents an opportunity to instill life- long healthy habits with regards to physical activity and healthy eating. I find these some ideas helpful:

  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids in between meals on busy days.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Set aside time for physical activity.

Staying active and eating healthy is the key to helping combat this ever growing problem.

WALK THE WALK AND TALK THE TALK

Do your child and yourself a favor. Role model behaviors. Incorporate healthy behaviors as often as you can. Eat right. Keep moving. Little changes will render big gains.

OTHER RESOURCES

For more tips, check out these resources:

Cover image by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, Creative Commons license.

*Harper, Jake. “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 Hoosiers Obese.” WFYI Public Media, 21 Sept. 2015, www.wfyi.org/news/articles/report-nearly-1-in-3-hoosiers-obese. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Easing Children’s Fears during Emergencies

by Katherine Darby, Infant/Toddler Specialist

We never stop worrying about our kids, and we work hard to keep them from harm. Severe weather and emergency drills are unexpected and unstoppable things that can all be very scary for young children. Children become afraid when things happen that are out of their control, when they don’t understand, and when something unexpected occurs.  By preparing children for these events, we can help ease their fears.

KEEP CALM

Be careful that you are not fueling a child’s fears. If you panic, they will panic too. It is important for you to remain calm during unexpected situations, because your children will be looking to you for guidance. The best way to remain as calm as possible is to prepare and practice.

PRACTICE AND PREPARE

We do fire drills so we know where to go if there is a fire. We practice tornado drills so we know where to go to keep us safe. Have practice drills in case the power goes out. Where can your child find a flash light? This practice helps to prepare not just the children, but us adults as well. Having a plan, being informed, and knowing what to expect is extremely beneficial when seconds count.

Prepare children as to what they should expect using language they understand. Talk about what is happening and why it happens. This is a great way to help ease anxiety and fears about the unexpected because it is no longer a mysterious thing.

“The fire alarm will flash a very bright light and make a very loud noise; it might hurt your ears.”

“The alarm has to be loud so we know to leave the building to stay safe.”

“When we see the bright lightening, there may be a big BOOM from thunder.”

Doing research together is another way to help a young child to better understand what is happening and what to expect. Get books about thunder from the library, watch videos about storms on YouTube, watch rain showers from the window. Do make sure any materials you get are developmentally appropriate for your child.

BE UNDERSTANDING

Let your child know it is okay to be scared and that you are there to keep them safe. You may have a child who was never fearful of loud sounds and suddenly he is terrified at the first clap of thunder and flash of lightening. Be understanding of your children’s fears and take them seriously. It may seem silly or nothing to worry about to you, but, to the child, it is a real and scary thing. Ask a child what they need from you to help calm them.

Every child deals with unexpected events in their own way. It is important to know and respecting a child’s feelings while teaching them appropriate ways they can cope.

How to Combat Provider Stress and Burnout

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

Life can be stressful! The life of an early childhood teacher can be even more stressful. We are in a profession of caregivers, so it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. I know how hard and stressful your job can be – I was a preschool teacher for 7 years in a 4/5 Pre-K classroom.

When I was in the classroom, something that really helped me was meditation. I would meditate when I got home from work. There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube you should check out. I know it may seem silly the first few times, but I found that it seriously worked for me. Yoga is great for relaxation too.

If you take care of yourself,  you can be the best version of “you” for the children in your care.

HOW CAN YOU BE A STRESS SURVIVOR?

  • Prioritize and know your limits – You can’t do everything, and that is okay. Figure out what is important, and go from there.
  • Take a deep breath – You will be amazed what taking a few seconds to take a few deep breaths will do for you!
  • Take time for yourself – Write, read, meditate, or listen to music.  Figure out what works for you and make time for it.
  • Ask for help –You can’t do everything, and no one expects you to. Ask for help when you need help!
  • Learn more about the children in your care and their needs – The more you know and understand them the better.
  • Spend time with adults – You spend your whole day with young children; make sure you are spending time with adults as well!

Remember: it is okay to take time for you! Self-care is NOT selfish.

COMMIT TO MAKE A CHANGE

Try this: take a few minutes and think about ONE thing you can change over the next month to help decrease the amount of stress you experience. Write it down on a piece of paper and revisit the paper a month from now.

At the end of the day, the children in your care deserve your absolute best “you”.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

I’m teaching a number of classes over the coming weeks on this topic. I would love to see you in person for one or more of these FREE trainings! Each of these trainings also offer 2.25 hours of CDA06 credit hours.

Cover image by Flickr user (T)imothep, Creative Commons license.

Child Safety in the Home

Make your home safer for little ones

by Vanessa Vance, Early Learning Adult Instructor

BABY’S SIDE OF THE STORY

“Ooh! Look at that pretty stuff over there! I should check it out!” thinks Baby, making his way across the living room floor.

Mom is busy making dinner in the next room. ‘Silence is golden’ some say. In this case, silence can be dangerous! Little eyes spot things adults wouldn’t even give a second glance to.

Baby makes his way across the floor and glances up at the colorful glass vase full of flowers. “I just need to get higher,” he thinks. As Baby pulls himself up to the low table, he is startled by someone saying his name very loudly. He starts to whimper. “You scared me!” he says in his mind.

Mom walks over, picks him up, and comforts him. She didn’t mean to scare him, but she needed to alert him of the possible danger.

SAFETY TIPS FOR YOUR HOME

As parents, we want to keep our children from harm. Oftentimes, we don’t see or think about things that need to be “baby-proofed” in our homes. One way to see things the way a child would is to get on her level.  It may seem silly, but crawl on the floor around the house, looking high and low for things that could be a hazard. Pay attention to:

  • Electrical outlets – do they have safety covers?
  • Glass and other breakable items – can they be placed somewhere out of reach or packed away?
  • Cleaning supplies – are there any under the bathroom sink? In the bathroom closet? On the floor behind the toilet? In the hall closet? Under the kitchen sink? In the pantry?
  • Tip hazards – are all cabinets, bookcases, stands or tables, secure and unable for baby to pull over on himself?
  • Small stuff – anything we may drop – from cookie crumbs to earrings – Baby will find them! Keep the small stuff picked up or swept up.
  • Sharp stuff – big sister doing a school project? Make sure scissors are put away as well as sharp pencils, pens, and even paper.
  • Tablecloths – It may be time to take off the tablecloths and table runners. Anything that hangs can look fun to play with.
  • Stove handles – Do you have a stove with handles on the bottom front? Make sure they have safety handles.
  • The refrigerator – Need an easy way to keep it closed for little ones – and easy for us? Place two non-permanent hooks toward the top of the fridge, one on the side and one on the door. Place a rubber band or string around both hooks. Baby can’t open, but magically, you can!

OTHER HELPFUL SAFETY RESOURCES

There are so many things to think about when a little one is around. By taking these first few steps, you have made yourself aware of other possible hazards to take care of.  Below are some website addresses to further explore safety in the home:

Cover image by Flickr user Lars Plougmann, Creative Commons license.

Become a Children’s Mental Health Advocate

by Shannon Ford, Professional Development Coordinator

I am one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with a mental health condition. In fact, one in five of us are!1 Mental health problems are actually more common than heart disease, lung disease, and cancer combined.2   Anxiety disorder is something that causes me to worry a bit too much.  At times, I can be restless and wound-up. Other times, I can be easily fatigued and have trouble concentrating.  On top of this, I’m a single mother raising a teenage son dealing with depression and anxiety.  It’s easy to see why mental health awareness is a topic close to my heart.

Of course, early childhood topics are also an area close to my heart. I wake up each day, wondering how my work in the early childhood field impacts children. I am always looking for ways to grow my knowledge on all things early childhood. As our nation seeks to increase awareness about the importance of children’s mental health, I began to look at my own repertoire on the topic and find ways to increase my skill set on this important topic. Here’s what I found that may help you as a caregiver of young children.

TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CHILDREN IN YOUR CARE

For our youngest children, we define mental health more along the lines of social and emotional development and wellness. Ask yourself these questions about the children in your care. Are they:

  • Forming close and secure relationships with adults and peers?
  • Able to experience, express, and manage a full range of emotions and feelings?
  • Able to explore the environment around them and learn?

We know early experiences matter.  Furthermore, they have a large impact on later mental and physical health. They also affect educational success, employment, and social well-being.

ASK YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR CURRENT APPROACH

It’s always good to evaluate your own practices. Take a look what you’re currently doing in your own program.

  • What are you doing to build and strengthen life skills in young children?
  • How are you promoting confidence in young children?
  • Are there opportunities for problem-solving and conflict resolution?
  • In what ways are you fostering empathy and compassion?

LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO PROMOTE CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

This February, I became a Youth Mental Health First Aider through a course offered by the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY).  Being endorsed as a Youth Mental Health First Aider has given me the tools to assist and support a child showing symptoms of a mental illness. Its tools can also help me with those children experiencing a mental health crisis until someone can reach professional help.  Not only was this course beneficial to me as an early childhood expert, it has benefited me as a parent as well.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth

National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016

 

Cover image by Flickr user Aikawa KeCreative Commons license.

September is National Preparedness Month

aap_disasterAlthough September is almost over, it’s not too late to prepare for emergencies and disasters as a part of National Preparedness Month!

Recent studies and surveys show that:

  • 39% of parents say their child’s Head Start/child care center or preschool had experienced an emergency in the past two years.
  • Only modest improvement had been made in household preparedness (23% in 2003 to 35% in 2015);
  • A lack of confidence remains in local governments to respond to disasters; and
  • Families remain unfamiliar with school or child care disaster plans.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines tips and additional resources to help you get better prepared on its website. Once of those resources is the AAP Family Readiness Kit, which assists families in getting disaster-ready.

Preparedness experts, parents, and child care providers contributed to this kit, which includes general guidelines for readiness that can be used in most situations, including how to:

  • Build a kit
  • Make a plan
  • Be informed
  • Get involved

Preventing Illness this Winter

by Joslyn Hurm-Sullivan, former Education Coordinator and current Deputy Director of Training & Professional Development for Early Learning Indiana

Welcome to October!  As the weather changes, be sure to take extra steps to help prevent illnesses like the flu.  Wash your hands and the hands of your children often and make sure to scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. Be sure hands are washed after blowing noses and sneezing. You may want to wash pacifiers and toys more often in the coming months as well. Another step is to have your children vaccinated with the Influenza vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine every season. Call your pediatrician today to learn more.

If your child comes down with a fever of 101 or higher please be sure to see your pediatrician and make other arrangements for child care. Many child care programs have a sick policy. You may want to follow up with your child care and refresh your memory of this policy. Some policies include but are not limited to the following:

  • A fever above 101 degrees taken orally (102 degrees taken rectally or 100 degrees taken axillary – armpit)
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or rash of unknown origin
  • Cold or other illness causing breathing difficulties or other symptoms that prevent the child from participating comfortably in activities
  • Positive reaction to tuberculin skin test
  • Ringworm
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

If your child has any of the following symptoms, you will need to wait 24 hours after the symptoms have subsided–without the aid of medication–before returning him or her to child care.

Take additional steps like drinking plenty of water, getting as much sleep as possible and eating a healthy diet along with the vaccination to prevent the flu. You also may want to wash down table tops, door handles, and other surfaces more often to stop the spread of germs.

Click here to view tips for proper hand washing in child care centers. All child care centers follow this policy. View tips for sanitizing toddler and baby toys here.

Cover image by Flickr user Brandon OttoCreative Commons license.